Copyright issues while publishing a thesis

You own the copyright in your thesis. Under patent, you will have specific rights in your thesis such as:

  • Propagating your thesis
  • Publicizing your thesis or making it available to the public
  • Articulating your thesis, for example, making it available online.
  • As an author, you also have ethical rights over your thesis.

In some cases, you may have signed an analysis agreement or publishing agreement that may affect what rights you conserve in your work. If so, you may need to take this into contemplation when determining if you can make your thesis accessible on open access or if it needs to be embargoed.

Making Your Thesis Available on Open Access

In making your thesis accessible on open access, you will need to check that:

  • You have permission to use any materials created by other people in your thesis that contain copyright.
  • If you have formerly published your thesis, in part or in full, any publishing or author approvals that you received will enable you to make it freely available on open access.
  • There are no other reasons to reject open access, including pending patent requests, the terms of a funding agreement, politically or legally sensitive data.

Managing copyrighted materials created by other

Copyright materials created by other people are often called third-party copyright materials, and you may need to seek authorization from the author before using their work unless the Copyright Act allows you to do so. Permission is not required if:

  • Copyright in work has expired.
  • Adding quotes from a book or journal article accounts for a very small percentage of your argument. You should be careful when using quotes or extracts from short works such as a song, poem, or song, as small portions are less likely to be seen as insubstantial.
  • You have an express license to use the work, e.g., an agreement, website conditions, Creative Commons material, the copyright owner has explicitly surrendered copyright, etc.
  • You are critiquing or studying the work, and your use is covered under a fair approach for criticism or review.
  • Spoofing or satirizing the work is hidden under fair dealing for parody and satire.

The rights for music, sound recordings, and films may be difficult to obtain if your thesis contains these materials.

For the content of third parties that are protected by copyright, you may be able to make redacted versions of your thesis available on open access. The redacted version is one that has been stripped of uncleared copyright content. 

Additionally, ensure that all third-party copyright material is cited with a full bibliography.

Pursuing permission to using copyright material:

It is important that you start the method of obtaining authorization as soon as possible. It is not unusual for it to take up to a year to obtain authorization. There may be circumstances in which permission cannot be obtained, or licensing 

fees must be paid.

A written request for permission is required. To keep track of what permissions you have received, you must keep copies of all authorization documents. Documents such as these should be kept for as long as your thesis remains open access or is covered by copyright. Your authorization documents might need to be provided by the University if asked.

Suppose you are not able to obtain authorization for copyright material in your thesis, or you need time to attain permission. In that case, you will need to embargo your theory or redact the third-party copyright material.

Listing Third Party Copyright Material

The Preparation of Graduate Research Theses Rules requires that you disclose all third-party copyright materials incorporated in your thesis and whether you have gained authorization from the copyright owners to make this material publicly accessible as part of your thesis. This includes:

  • Any pictures
  • Videos and sound recordings (musical or non-musical) are audio-visual materials.

When establishing the list of third-party copyright material included in your thesis, please use the Template for Listing Third Party Copyright Material.

When publishing your theory, you need to confirm you have cleared any copyright and authorizations and have thought about the extent to which you make it accessible for others to use.

Before or after submitting your thesis, if you intend to publish material from it, you need to figure out whether it can be distributed.

If you are publishing material preliminary to submission, it is crucial that you realize how you can then use it in your final submission.

You should determine that anything generated by someone other than yourself is conserved by copyright unless you specify otherwise (e.g., determine that the term of copyright protection has terminated and the work is in the public domain). Several types of works are protected by copyright, including books, articles, newspapers, photographs, movies, music, software, and even things found on the internet.

A copyrighted work needs permission or a fair use justification if it is used in your thesis or document. Fair use is an abnormality to the copyright holder’s undivided rights. In order to use copyrighted works under a statement of fair use, the following factors must be weighed:

  1. The motive and character of the use, including whether such use is of a marketable nature or is for non-profit academic purposes; 
  2. The quality of the copyrighted work; 
  3. The proportion and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted task as a whole
  4. The effect of the use upon the possible market for or significance of value copyrighted work.

Eventually, remember to always provide reasonable attribution to the references and quotations of the works you encompass into your thesis or dissertation. Proper attribution is certainly required; that’s a part of educational integrity and good scholarship. Copyright authorization, if necessary, is an entirely distinct matter and does not obviate the need for attribution.

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